There are many bacons out there – maple bacon, candied bacon, smoked bacon, streaky bacon, back bacon, spicy bacon etc… Then there’s the list of products bacon has inspired which gets even more longwinded and ridiculous. Bacon toothpicks, bacon vodka, bacon chocolate & bacon lip gloss, to name a few.
Why the obsession with bacon?
For many, bacon is the ultimate food. It is fatty and salty and sweet. Delicious. The perfect combo. It gives the umami box a tick and then kicks it down the stairs. Our bodies crave this combination of fat, sugar and salt, and on the rare occasions when it’s blended in such perfect proportion (like in humble bacon) addictions and cravings are right behind.
So what’s with the bacon in Vietnam? There are more and more producers coming up all the time. And the quality is steadily improving, no doubt about it. But most bacon and small goods producers take shortcuts to speed up the process to get the product on the shelf faster. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. We just think some of the charm and flavour gets sacrificed for speed and economics.
We make our bacon in the old style. We carefully select a belly from a pig who graduated Pig University with honours, captained a sports team, had lots of friends and drank in moderation (super premium beers only). We are looking for just the right ratio of meat and fat. Sporty but loveable and cuddly. And we cuddle it for a while.
We bathe the belly in a wet brine solution of curing salt, sugar and pepper for 10 days. Yep. 10 days. That’s a nice little wait for the sweetness and saltiness to penetrate in. Normally after about 6 days I start to get excited, but I’m calmed down by the others and we leave the belly in peace.
A quick wash removes the brine. Time for another quick massage. It’s been ten days. The journey is almost over. Pat it dry. And dry up those tears.
Our smoker, Lucille (more on this another time), is filled with coals and our temperature is set around 150oC. After a few quick kisses and well wishes, we send the belly for its final step into the smoking chamber. We use the fragrant dried tops of cashew fruit to impart wonderfully sweet and complex smoke characteristics. Three hits of smoke. 3-4 hours. Open that lid and magic has happened. The deep color shows the smoke has taken and the bacon is ready.
There are many bacons out there. Home-made, slow-cooked, thick-cut, cashew-smoked, brown sugar and black pepper bacon. This is our bacon.
– Quán Ụt Ụt